Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

Contact tracing will be used to track the spread of the virus, while basic public health measures like mask wearing and handwashing are recommended. An alert has been sent to clinicians to look out for signs of the virus.

Sutton said monkeypox is a serious illness and said transmission can occur through fluids, lesions, respiratory transmission for those in close contact with each other or close skin to skin contact.

Alfred Health infectious diseases physician Professor Allen Cheng updates the media on Victoria's first confirmed case of monkeypox on May 20.

Alfred Health infectious diseases physician Professor Allen Cheng updates the media on Victoria’s first confirmed case of monkeypox on May 20.Credit:Nine News

Cases of viruses in Europe and North America have so far been identified in people who have traveled to West Africa and in communities where men have sex with men, Sutton said.

Between 1 and 5 per cent of people have died from the virus, but this was in an African context where significant medical care can be harder to access.

Children and older individuals are at risk of more severe illness, as are people who are immunocompromised, Sutton said.

“We do not have a long history of this in western populations, so it’s hard to say, but many people who are on immunosuppressive therapy or have underlining conditions, they are usually the ones most at risk of severe illness,” the chief health officer said.

The Department of Health has begun contact tracing and those close to the man have been asked to monitor for symptoms and isolate if they develop symptoms. Some close contacts will be offered a vaccine, which can be effective up to four days after potential exposure.

As a precaution, passengers who sat close to the man on two flights – EY10 from London to Abu Dhabi on May 14 and EY462 from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne on May 15 – are also being contacted by health authorities.

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The Health Department urges anyone who develops symptoms to seek care at their nearest hospital, but reminded them to wear a mask and call ahead.

Sutton said it is still rare to find the virus outside of West Africa, but “what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is that more cases have occurred than has been the case historically for a long time.”

“That may be a combination of changes to the virus, it may be the fact that we are now further and further away from when we all got vaccinated from smallpox … that vaccination finished up in most of the world in the 1970s up to 1980s. ”

Those who have been exposed to the virus can get the smallpox vaccine. The jab provides a four-day window of protection.

A Sydney man was also confirmed as NSW’s state’s first case of the virus on Friday, prompting health authorities to ask people who recently holidayed in Europe or North America to be alert for symptoms.

The disease belongs to a family of viruses that includes smallpox. Most people recover from monkeypox within weeks.

Sporadic cases of monkeypox have been detected previously in countries including Britain and the US, but nearly all have been in people who were likely infected during their travels in Africa.

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